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Some serious fracking exuberance in gay Paris

Good news, folks. According to our friends at the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States will once again be the world's top oil producing nation by 2020. In your face Russia and Saudi Arabia!

Not only that, but by 2030 we'll have so much oil — thanks largely to fracking of tight oil (shale oil) — that the US will be a net oil exporter again for the first time in over sixty years. Okay, so that's largely based on a projected decrease in demand of 5 million barrels a day (mbd), which is a little over 25% of current consumption (hmmm, I wonder what that says about the IEA's confidence in the US economy). Still, the IEA projects that within five years we'll blow by the all time peak in US crude oil production (9.6mbd in 1970) and make a laughingstock of M. King Hubbert in the process.

By 2015, U.S. oil production is expected to rise to 10 million barrels per day and increase to 11.1 million barrels per day by 2020, overtaking second-place Russia and front-runner Saudi Arabia, according to the IEA's World Energy Outlook. The U.S. will export more oil than it brings into the country in 2030, the report said.

I just wish the guys and gals at our own energy agency — the Energy Agency Information (EIA), part of the US Department of Energy — got the memo. For some reason, they seem to think that US crude oil production will peak in 2020 at 6.7mbd, which is about 30% below the 1970 peak and 35% below the IEA's projections. Even if you remove natural gas liquids from the IEA's totals, that's still a big gap between the IEA and EIA.

Who to believe here? I for one am going with the Frenchies. I mean, just look at the lousy track record of the EIA in their projections of global oil production.

Their 2002 projection, for example, overestimated 2011 production by 13%, or 11 mbd — and that was only nine years out. I know what you're thinking... Hasn't the EIA always overstated oil production levels? Sure, but this time I'm guessing they've just erred the other way. You know, tried something different.

In either case, I'm sure everything will work out fine. It's not like the fate of our economies and environment hinge on our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.


Asher Miller is the Executive Director of Post Carbon Institute, which will soon publish a landmark report entitled "Drill, Baby, Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance?" in January 2013. Written by J. David Hughes the report provides a detailed analysis of over 30 shale gas and 20 shale oil plays in the United States, along with other unconventional oil and gas resources (tar sands, deepwater oil, etc.).

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